I am fortunate to live in the mild climate of the Pacific Northwest, but even we have had some pretty chilly days of late. When the temperature dips around or below freezing, the backyard birds need a little extra care.

winterThere are water warming trays on the market for backyard livestock, which come in handy in a cold climate. I have never quite gotten around to buying one though – plus they are pricey. So that means that our winter mornings have started out with a cold walk to the coops to thaw the drinking water.

winter-routineIt has become a nice routine though – something to get me out of the house to breath in the crisp air and take care of our flock. We fill a bucket with warm water from the tap, then make the quiet walk outside to visit the birds each morning. We melt the drinking water and refill it with clean, lukewarm water.

winter-poolThe water in the duck pool has also been frozen each morning. Although our runner ducks don’t require a swimming pool, it makes them so much happier to be able to take a dip, drink and bath. I have been boiling a kettle in the morning, then pouring it in to melt the ice. It’s barely warm to the touch after all the ice disappears and the pool party quickly commences.

winter-bedsSince most of the garden is sleeping, the chickens and ducks have been given full access to the garden. The beds are covered, so they can’t do any damage to our winter crops. Instead, they till the soil, root around for bugs, lay down some fresh manure and soak up some sunshine. It seems to be a “win” for everyone.

winter-chickensNo one is laying eggs as of a couple weeks ago, which is fine by us. You can always force them to lay by placing a light in the coops on a timer to trick them into thinking there is more daylight. But, just like humans, these ladies are only born with so many eggs to lay in their lifetime. We prefer to let them take a rest for the winter, then start back up laying in the spring. That just means we will have more years of eggs from them.

winter-runner-ducksSpring really is just around the corner. Soon my little wintertime routine will come to an end, replaced with a new garden chore, and I will look back longingly at these quiet, sleepy days on the homestead.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson